Around the world on a bicycle…
By Janice Pillay
Crossmoor Secondary School were privileged to have the inspiring humanitarian, Somen Debnath, at their assembly on Friday, 20 February.
Debnath has been travelling around the world on a bicycle, on a mission to create awareness on HIV/AIDS amongst youth at various schools, colleges and universities, which he pays a visit to during the course of his journey through different countries.
Debnath explained how he started his journey on 27 May 2004 from a remote village in India called Basanti, which is located in Sundarbans in the province of West Bengal.
“My aim is to spread awareness on HIV/AIDS in 191 countries by the end of 2020, covering almost 200 000km and reaching nearly 20 million people. My funds are supported by donations. I wish to educate people from different parts of society by raising awareness among students of schools, colleges and universities,” Debnath told the school.
The real inspiration for Debnath’s mission began at the age of 14 when he read an article called ‘AIDS is Deadlier than Cancer’.
“A person who was suffering from AIDS was left lying in front of the Medical College of Calcutta, abandoned by all his villagers and left to die alone. No one would touch him. This incident made a huge impact on me. My mission was to first spread the knowledge to the people from my village, then my country and then the world. Today, it is a global campaign,” related Debnath.
He hopes to build a global village of peace and all the soil collected from the different countries will be housed in the center. “This global village is going to be a self-sufficient village and will house any citizen of this world, irrespective of cast, creed, country and religion,” said Debnath. He stated that he chooses to use his bicycle as a mode of transport because it is environmentally friendly, it is a great form of exercise and keeps him fit. “It also lets me meet people, connect with them and make new friends. If I ride 10kms, I am meeting 10 new people and making friends,” he added.
The talk was well received by the school, with both learners and educators being excited to meet him afterwards. Debnath together with Clive Pillay from the Nelson Mandela Youth Centre, are also encouraging cycling amongst residents in the community. “All those interested in meeting and cycling with Sonem can gather at the Chatsworth Stadium car-park with their bicycles on Sunday, 1 March at 8am,” said Pillay.